While several U.S. airlines have cut flights to Cuba because of weak demand, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and JetBlue Airways have all applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation requesting more flights to Havana.
American Airlines sent a request on Monday for an additional seven weekly flights. JetBlue also requested seven additional slots, including flights from Fort Lauderdale to Havana six times a week and a weekly flight from Boston to Havana on Saturdays. Delta made a similar request, seeking seven additional weekly flights to the island’s capital.
The openings for new routes became available after Silver Airways, Spirit Airlines, and Frontier Airlines threw in the towel and announced that they would completely stop flights to Cuba by the summer.
American Airlines currently offers daily flights to six cities in Cuba, while Delta offers one daily flight to Havana. JetBlue flies from Fort Lauderdale to Havana 13 times a week. If American’s request is approved by the Department of Transportation, it will start flying a Boeing 737 that can carry 160 passengers to the island towards the end of the year. JetBlue also plans to use an Airbus A320 aircraft with a similar capacity on the route from November this year.
JetBlue announced plans to use smaller planes for flights to the island to adjust for demand in February. It ended up cutting capacity for its daily flights to Cuba by 300 seats. JetBlue spokesman Philip Stewart told the press that the adjustments have made the Havana route perform well within the company’s expectations.
“With these adjustments, Havana is performing well against our expectations and we are seeing strength in our group’s business,” Stewart said in a statement. “We hold an optimistic long-term view as visitor levels grow at a record pace.”
The frenzy to add service to Cuba began last year after experts predicted that there would be high demand for flights to Cuba. Several airlines applied for permission to fly to the island in anticipation of that demand, which ended up being lower than projected. Since then, some airlines have been forced to cut flights, use smaller planes, or quit the route altogether.
American Airlines was the first to cut its service to the island last November from two daily to one. Silver Airways followed suit in December by also reducing the number of its flights. The carrier later announced plans to stop flying the route completely in March. Frontier made a similar announcement last month, and Spirit Airlines recently became the latest carrier to make that change.
“The problem here was that there was so little data to work with. Usually when an airline considers new nonstop service in a market, it can, for example, look at how many people are already flying between the cities on a connecting basis and try to project how many more might fly if a more convenient nonstop flight existed,” said Seth Kaplan, a managing partner at Airline Weekly, told the press.
American, Delta, and JetBlue are now the only carriers offering daily flights to Cuba from South Florida.